Public Deaths

Death is one of the most universal of taboos. Not the rituals of grief, burial and mourning which are many, varied and almost always public in character. I mean the actual act of dying. This most mysterious of earthly transitions is done in private, even for the most well-known of persons, with a few family and close friends in attendance and maybe a man or woman of God around to ease the way.

Public deaths, on the other hand, serve a social purpose. For instance, public executions are meant to be cathartic events in which society extracts its pound of flesh, as it were. It supposedly serves as a deterrent to criminal or aberrant behavior and reflects the manner by which justice is served within a community. It’s also morbidly entertaining and can even be interactive, such as in the practice of stoning or the spectators’ participation in the gory events in the Roman Colosseum.

Other public deaths, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, serve as a catalyst for social upheaval and change.

Suicide is a more complicated phenomenon in which no easy generalizations can be made. It can be done privately or in plain of view others, but even the most secretive act of taking one’s life assumes a public aspect upon the discovery of the body. The act itself is shocking under any circumstance, being so contrary to what we normally know and expect of human behavior. Thus, the ripple effects of a suicide extend beyond the immediate family or social circle of the victim to the society at large. I knowingly use the word “victim” as I believe those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another of life’s events which makes continued living unbearable. However, some suicides are more publicly significant that others. Continue reading

Pilipinas Kay Praning

Philippine Star columnist Yoly Villanueva-Ong wrote an impassioned piece in support of the discredited and scrapped “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” branding campaign of the Department of Tourism. Ms. Villanueva-Ong is the founder and head of the Campaigns and Grey ad agency, which helped conceptualize the aborted undertaking. By her own admission, she is not a disinterested observer.

In rather purple prose, she expressed her indignation at the “coordinated online outrage” by a “Gruesome Malicious Army” and “net-dicts” intending “to wreck havoc on the new, popular government“. It’s GMA and her stooges and a shadowy cabal “who fancy themselves divas of righteousness” behind all this, you see, and it’s all politically-motivated. “Politically-motivated” being the standard, catch-all retort of those caught in the act of bending the rules for their own benefit.

But this argument skirts the central issue of the whole brouhaha, which is that the whole concept was a bad idea to begin with and was simply called out for being what it was – a bad idea. And which is why the head of the new, popular government shelved the whole scheme. Continue reading

Great Expectations

jobless-man
Photo by Anton Sheker of Blogwatch.ph

It was a good start, as these things go. The air was festive at the site of the presidential inaugural ceremonies, in the sense that it felt like a campaign rally for Noynoy Aquino. The predominance of yellow was expected although still a bit grating to those of us who were not enamoured of the President to begin with.

The entertainment segment preceding the formal oath-taking was entertaining, although some elements were a bit off. Juana Change as mistress of ceremonies, removed from the context of anti-government rallies, looked lost, fat and freakish. The songs were rehashes of campaign ditties with a few revisions to make them more “inclusive”. There was an earnest attempt to give life to a theme of reconciliation but it was still sounded and felt like a victory party for President Noynoy. Fair enough. He won and is now the Head of State.

P-Noy looked embarrassed at times at the outpouring of love and acclamation. Jojo Binay looked alternately bored and annoyed, slumped next to his boss, but came to life when it was his turn to take the oath of office. The foreign dignitaries looked bemused and bewildered at all the hoopla. Erap Estrada looked pensive, maybe looking back at the many lost opportunities. Kris Aquino appeared troubled but the rest of the Aquino sisters were glowingly beautiful. Chief Justice Renato Corona was putting a good face to an awkward situation. Continue reading

Noynoy Aquino and the Rule of Law

Talking to reporters during his retirement ceremony yesterday, outgoing Chief Justice Reynato Puno commented on the refusal of president-elect Noynoy Aquino to take his oath of office before the incoming Chief Justice, Renato Corona. C.J. Puno said that Mr. Aquino should “respect the rule of law” in answer to a question regarding Aquino’s plan of being sworn in by a yet unnamed barangay captain in Tarlac province. This as a way of snubbing GMA’s choice of Puno’s successor, a “midnight appointee” from Noynoy’s point of view. Even though the Supreme Court was nearly unanimous (Justice Carpio-Morales dissented) in declaring that the president “has an imperative duty under the Constitution to fill up the vacancies” in the S.C. even if she is set to leave in a few weeks, delicadeza be damned.

To be sure, there is nothing in the Constitution or the law which would compel Noynoy to take his oath of office before the Chief Justice. All that is required is that the person be authorized to administer oaths. For this purpose, a barangay head would be as good as any justice.

But tradition is sometimes weightier than the the letter (or non-letter) of the law. Only two past Philippine presidents (Quezon and Osmena) were not sworn into office by the Philippine C.J., during the commonwealth and war periods. All post-independence presidents took their office of office before the Chief Justice. The reason is simple: this is a recognition of the separation of powers between the three main branches of government and an acknowledgment of the respect and deference due the leader of a supposedly co-equal branch. Although in reality, an imperial presidency trumps both the legislature and judiciary in terms of actual power and prestige. Continue reading

After Automated Elections, You Can’t Go Home Again

An air of excited expectancy was palpable in our neighborhood this morning. There was a feeling that the day ahead would be full of surprises, hopefully not unpleasant. We live right across a voting precinct and the place was abuzz with activity the past few days. The poll personnel and volunteers were there a full two hours before the voting was to officially start, although the cops and military who were guarding the place were camped out days before.

As always, it’s a chaotic process: long queues, inaccurate voters’ lists, the confused electorate mingling (and occasionally tangling) with the frazzled election officials, shady characters working for the various candidates hovering in the sidelines. A crazy stew exacerbated by the steamy summer heat.

But after you get through the long lines, the voting itself is relatively quick and painless. Simple, fast and apparently transparent. The PCOS machines, at least where we voted, worked wonderfully. I saw smiling faces leaving the polling place. Even the police looked relaxed and happy. Or maybe it’s just me feeling good about politics for the first time in a very long while. Continue reading

Desperately Seeking Noynoy

More than six months ago I wrote a post on how Noynoy Aquino lacks substance. Nothing that has happened since has changed my view. If anything, I feel stronger than ever that he is just not the right person to lead this country for the next six years.

Though I have to admit is it’s not hard to like the guy. He’s a decent and well-mannered fellow. Noynoy’s like a buddy from high school who you may not have seen for a number of years but you instantly feel at ease with if you unexpectedly bump into each other. The kind of guy you want to have coffee with or knock down a few beers while watching the latest Pacquiao fight.

But as the next Philippine president ? The prospect makes me very uneasy. Considering his undistinguished public life, no one can deny that he has gotten to where he is solely because he is Ninoy and Cory’s only son. The presumption being that since his parents were historical giants, their progeny will prove to be noble and outstanding as well. History has proven that this is not necessarily so, Gloria Arroyo being the most obvious example. As is Noynoy’s sister, Kris. Continue reading

The Company We Keep

Butch Dalisay wrote a post a week or so ago about his not being a fan of the rampant social networking on the web. What a relief. I thought I was the only cranky old man around. And while I do have Facebook account, it was only at the insistent prodding of those near and dear to me. I hardly visit my Facebook page and I’m afraid I may come across as cold and distant to my many well-meaning friends who have poked me and keep sending me this and that invitation to join a cause. It seems I don’t respond well to being nudged, whether electronically or physically, and tend to keep my distance.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate what an amazing platform for connectivity Facebook and its ilk are. People I haven’t seen or heard from in decades are now my Facebook buddies. And I know why it’s such a hit for us Pinoys. It’s rooted deep in our national psyche, the need to be part of a community and to interact constantly. Continue reading

Suicide as the Only Honorable Way

To extricate oneself from a sticky situation, suicide is literally the last resort. A person in full possession of all his faculties would naturally hesitate to resort to what has been called a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But there are people and cultures who look upon self-annihilation as a viable option in order to save some vestige of one’s honor. The Japanese are of course well-known for this. Seppuku or ritual suicide is a means not only of recovering some terminal self-respect and atoning for one’s misdeeds. It can also be aimed at shaming a morally bankrupt system to change. This is what spurred Buddhist monks to immolate themselves publicly and dramatically during the Vietnam war. Japanese novelist and ultra-nationalist Yukio Mishima thought he could do this too but only succeeded in killing himself. Continue reading

Dr. Hayden Kho Needs Help

Although it won’t be coming from me.

It’s hard to generate any sympathy for a jerk who has been gifted with so much, in the looks (obviously, as those he bedded are as comely as they come) and brains (he’s an M.D. after all) department, yet has thrown it all away for a few destructive and less-than-cheap thrills. Dr. Kho is proof that moral depravity and plain dumb-ass (those who have seen the videos know that I mean this literally) imbecility cuts across professional boundaries. Somehow this makes us lawyers feel better. Continue reading